Last week you may have heard Gordon Brown announce his government's support for a new generation of nuclear power plants. It's been delivered to the media as a heroic move to fight climate change and bridge the energy gap. But the only thing bold about Brown's announcement is its deception.
So we thought you might want to hear what we have to say about the government's claims. The government says it's the only way to reduce our climate change emissions...
But according to the government's own Sustainable Development Commission even if the UK built 10 new nuclear reactors, nuclear electricity could only theoretically deliver a 4% cut in carbon emissions some time after 2025. The real threat from Gordon Brown's brand of nuclear fundamentalism is that if cash and political energy get thrust at nuclear power, these technologies will be strangled. They say we need nuclear power or the lights will go out...
Over the next few years, several existing nuclear and coal plants are set to close. This is the 'energy' (or electricity) gap. The government's figures suggest that this gap is about a third of our current electricity supply. The challenge is to bridge this gap in a way that allows us to meet our legitimate energy needs and sets us on course for massive emissions reductions over the coming decades. And the government's own figures show this can be done with renewables and energy efficiency.
Nuclear electricity cannot solve our energy problems. For starters, not one single nuclear power station will come into operation over the next decade when we will need to bridge the gap. The government estimates we won't have the new stations until at least 2025. And they say we need nuclear power for energy independence and security of supply...
Electricity is not the same as energy. The majority of our energy demand is for heat and transport. While nuclear power currently accounts for about a fifth of our electricity generation, that is less than 4% of our total energy demand. 86% of our oil and gas consumption is used for purposes other than electricity. Most of the gas we use is for heating and hot water, or for industrial purposes. Virtually all oil is used for transport. In this instance, new nuclear power - which can only generate electricity - is practically irrelevant.
There are real solutions though. The real solutions to the energy gap and climate change are available now. Energy efficiency, cleaner use of fossil fuels, renewables and state of the art decentralised power stations like they have in Scandinavia.
We can also decrease our oil dependence by improving vehicle efficiency, public transport systems and reducing the need to travel, especially for business by using new technology like video conferencing.
You can find out more about the real solutions to climate change by watching our film The Convenient Solution www.email.greenpeace.org/cloneea_pxeeekqp.html . And if you've watched it and you want to help spread the word, email email@example.com with your mailing address and we'll send you a DVD and some organic popcorn to host your own screening of the film for friends and family.
Tracy Frauzel, Greenpeace
17 January 2008
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